New Climate Smart Ag Technical Assistance Grants Announced

Posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2019 by Brian Shobe
Michael Yang, Small Farms and Specialty Crops Hmong Agricultural Assistant (left) and Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, PhD, Small Farms Advisor in Fresno and Tulare Counties (right), are some of the 33 technical assistance providers who will receive funding to assist farmers and ranchers in the upcoming rounds of the Climate Smart Agriculture Programs. Here, Michael is explaining the benefits of bitter melon on a recent tour of a small-scale, diversified vegetable farm in Fresno County.

CalCAN has advocated for over a decade that with sufficient resources — including research, financial, and technical assistance — farmers can deliver unique and powerful solutions to climate change and other urgent challenges. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) made another leap forward this week in providing those resources, announcing it will be providing $2.1 million to 33 organizations to provide comprehensive technical assistance (TA) to farmers and ranchers interested in participating in two of the state’s groundbreaking Climate Smart Agriculture Programs – the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) and the Healthy Soils Program (HSP).

This technical assistance funding is the direct result of the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 2377 in 2018, a CalCAN-sponsored bill authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin and supported by 36 organizations in our network. AB 2377 came about in direct response to the feedback of farmers, ranchers, and folks working with them on the ground who said that in order to scale up the impact of the Climate Smart Agriculture programs, farmers and ranchers needed multiyear comprehensive technical assistance, including outreach, education, and assistance with project design, the application process, implementation, and reporting. AB 2377 requires a minimum of 5% of the budgets of the HSP, AMMP and SWEEP programs be used to provide three years of comprehensive technical assistance. The bill also prioritizes technical assistance for small and mid-sized farms, and requires 25% of the technical assistance funds be used to support historically underserved farmers.

See the full list of 33 organizations selected

Of the 33 organizations selected, 25 will provide TA just for HSP, 7 will provide TA for both AMMP and HSP, and 1 will provide TA just for AMMP. Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) received nearly half of the grants (16), other non-governmental organizations received 13 grants, and various regional or county offices of the University of California Cooperative Extension received 4 grants.

Ventura County Resource Conservation District was one of the 16 RCDs to receive a TA grant. “The Ventura County Resource Conservation District is grateful for the opportunity to help our agricultural community with locally-relevant climate smart conservation practices,” said Jamie Whiteford, the RCD’s District Scientist. “We’re certain that, in funding pre- and post- HSP project assistance, CDFA will receive more competitive and impactful applications. We also believe that an effective Healthy Soils Program strengthens support for other soils-based initiatives and will accelerate development of climate resilience across all landscapes and communities. Thus, as a District whose mission is to serve all landowners in our service area, we welcome this development.”

The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) also received a TA grant. Sara Tiffany, CAFF’s Climate Smart Farming Senior Manager, said that “it is essential that farmers and ranchers, particularly those that are historically underserved, have the resources and support they need to successfully participate in the HSP and ensure that the implementation of new practices leads to successful adoption in the long-term. CAFF is excited to receive a Technical Assistance grant from CDFA that will enable us to  provide these resources to farmers and ranchers as we all work toward a more sustainable future for California agriculture.”

One of the organizations that received a grant to provide TA for AMMP is the California Dairy Campaign. “The California Dairy Campaign (CDC) strongly supports AMMP because it enables dairies of all sizes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lynne McBride, Executive Director of CDC. “Dairy producers are interested in adopting new ways to manage manure to reduce emissions, but years of low milk prices make it difficult to fund these important projects. As a technical assistance provider, CDC looks forward to continuing to work with dairy producers to determine the most effective AMMP projects for their dairy farms to reduce GHG emissions and provide additional environmental benefits across the state.”

We thank all the farmers, ranchers, technical assistance providers, other advocates, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, and CDFA for making this new investment in comprehensive Climate Smart Agriculture technical assistance possible. Our work is not done yet though — as we celebrate this important step forward, we also know we must continue to scale up and level the playing field for technical assistance and other resources farmers and ranchers need to help the state achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

If you have questions about these new technical assistance grants, please email brian[at]calclimateag.org

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